Faith, Work, and Economics in Four Traditions:
Whenever we talk about faith, work, and economics, we speak from perspectives within our various faith traditions. While there are important things we hold in common as evangelicals – the faith once delivered to the saints, the legacy of the Reformation, etc. – there is also important variety across our communities. A robust understanding of our “membership” in one another (I Corinthians 12) leads us to expect diversity within unity, as well as unity within diversity. What does this mean for the evangelical conversation about faith, work, and economics?
In a new video produced by the Oikonomia Network, theological educators Charlie Self, Patrick Eby, and Chad Brand explore the history and resources of their respective traditions. From the Pentecostal emphasis on widely distributed responsibility for discovery and creativity, to the Baptist heritage of independent, entrepreneurial church life; from the traditional Wesleyan focus on preparing people for the world of virtuous work and economic exchange, to the Reformed emphasis on careful theological integration; each tradition brings something important to the table. In order to draw on strengths and resources from a variety of traditions, the Acton Institute has published a series of four “primers” that introduce faith, work, and economics from four distinct perspectives – Baptist, Pentecostal, Wesleyan, and Reformed. These primers help us truly appreciate the multifaceted nature of the work and economics conversation. Self, Eby, and Brand are authors of the first three books in the series; the fourth book – the Reformed primer by John Bolt – has just been published.
Alongside the distinctive approaches embodied in these books, there are large areas of overlap. God cares deeply about our work; work is central to good character; the marketplace of economic exchange can be a crucible of virtue and flourishing. This confirms that the most basic, integrative ideas are not the pet project of one school, but a shared heritage. In the video, the authors discuss the Holy Spirit and Scripture as guides to work and economics; legacies of entrepreneurship in their respective traditions; the doctrine of vocation; church programs to prepare people for work; the value of economic systems; people coming together across cultural divisions to affirm ethical wealth creation; and how Christian discipleship cultivates creativity for the common good.
The authors of these introductory books are key theological leaders in their respective traditions:
- Baptist primer “Flourishing Faith”
- Chad Brand, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
- Foreword by Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
- Pentecostal primer “Flourishing Churches & Communities”
- Charlie Self, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary
- Foreword by George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God (USA)
- Wesleyan primer “How God Makes the World a Better Place”
- David Wright, president of Indiana Wesleyan University, et. al.
- Foreword by Jo Anne Lyon, general superintendent of The Wesleyan Church
- Reformed primer “Economic Shalom”
- John Bolt, Calvin Theological Seminary
- Foreword by David Kim, Redeemer Center for Faith and Work
These books have received numerous accolades from denominational and other targeted publications. The Wesleyan Church distributed 3,000 electronic copies of “How God Makes the World a Better Place” to every pastor in their denomination!